So my first week of listening has been a success. I've been actively working on absorbing more information than I put out, I've been practicing RASA, I've worked on my nonverbal communication (both in sending and receiving) and when I found I was being a poor listener, I try to adjust accordingly.
In just this short time, I have discovered several challenges to listening however. In addition to the fact that listening is a very active (exhausting) task, there are other problems:
1) It is difficult to listen because the WHOLE world is talking.
The media. The internet. Advertisements. Radio. Television, etc--not just people themselves. So much information is coming at me from all directions that it can be extremely difficult to focus on one person/idea at a time worth listening to.
Possible solution(?): Minimize distractions. Turn off the radio, the TV, the phone--the outside world. If talking one-on-one with someone, simply ask: "It's really important to me that I hear what you're saying. I really want to give you my full attention but it's pretty hard in this space. Do you mind if we move somewhere a little quieter?
2) Everyone wants to talk. No one wants to have a conversation.
This might seem obvious since I took on this February challenge for the purpose of improving my own listening. Yet, what seems to have happened is that as I listen more, I'm becoming aware of just how often people talk at me rather than with me. I am not sure if it is because of my introversion, or the sheer volume of people I encounter and speak to everyday (at least 30--yes I counted). But listening has quickly become very tiresome. No one enjoys being talked *at* for lengthy periods of time and I am no exception. But in the spirit of practicing, I've become the perfect sound board for people dumping their opinions, fears/concerns, etc on me.
Possible solution: I don't have one yet. So, to be developed? If you have an idea, I'm all ears! :D
3) Listening can be a very lonely, one way street.
This is different from #2 for a reason. It's no so much that listeners are dumping grounds, it's that the whole point of talking and listening (or so I thought) was about connecting, feeling understood, conveying experiences, emotions and ideas and having them resonate with others.
However, if you are having a conversation with someone who isn't listening, who is only waiting for their turn to talk, or who wants to give you advice rather than listen, or who wants to top you with their own tales, it creates this sense of disconnect. It can leave the speaker feeling disconnected and "outside" rather than connected.
Possible solution: Understand that when people are talking to me (sometimes) they want to make that connection. If I reciprocate well (using RASA), then I might be able to give them that satisfying connection they deserve.
So in conclusion, it seems I need to develop a few tools for controlling conversations (and making them less negative and one-sided) and to somehow be a good listener but also conserve my energy. I'm not there yet, but hopefully as my research and practice continues, the answers will come.
I'm still running the giveaway for my Jesse Sullivan audiobooks here. And what better way to celebrate the power of listening than by listening to an audiobook?! ;)